Friday, October 10

Interview- Ting Tings

. Friday, October 10

When 2008 draws its bankrupt last breath and looks back upon the music that sound tracked it there will be one band at the forefront of discussion- The Ting Tings. A band that split opinion like no other- Are they a pop band? Are they an indie band? Are they an indie band pretending to be a pop band? Or vice-versa? The debate rages on, for every one person who hates them however there are ten who love the Salford acts sugary brand of upbeat tunes. Make no mistake, The Ting Tings are popular. Number one album and single, sell out tours and scenes of joy at festivals only rivalled by those discovering untainted porta-loos. Questions about the band remain though. Gigwise spoke to Ting Tings singer Katie White to discover how the past year has affected the band.

First things first, what’s been the highlight of 2008? “Just getting the album done I think, we’ve never finished anything in our lives before. Something’s always got in the way before you know and it’s died a death. With the album though we got it finished and it’s something we’re really proud of.” Any other highlights? “Glastonbury was definitely a moment for us. We’d been away in America for weeks so didn’t know what was happening for us here. We knew we were number one but to play there and have so many people singing our songs back at us was amazing. It was really memorable". Was that the moment you realised you were famous? I think it was the moment we realised things were bigger than we had imagined they could be definitely, just to see so many people as far back as you could see was brilliant.

Is getting snapped by the paparazzi a regular thing now? “Yeah it’s weird! I always thought it’d be alright in Manchester. I mean if you’re falling out The Met bar or whatever then you kinda deserve it but in Salford?! You think “You’re not hanging round here for long.” Have you succumbed to narcissistic pornography and Googled yourself? “I used to when we started and we had, like, two reviews in the entire world- but now no way. I couldn’t take the bad stuff that gets written. It would be like self harm.” Being a chart topping pop star leads to mixing in slightly more glamorous circles, who’s the most famous person you’ve met? “It’s strange you know, we met Britney at the VMA’s (MTV Video Music Awards) and you don’t get much more famous than her but because she doesn’t really affect us in any way it didn’t seem real. We were both much more in awe when we met Michael Palin."

Having flitted about with slightly trivial questions Gigwise goes for the kill. Do you feel The Ting Tings have credibility? “Errr… I don’t know. I think it’d be weird if you knew that. We just do what we do and people like it or not. It’s not something we think about too much. What do you think?” Now this is awkward. Personally speaking this writer does not believe that The Ting Tings have a great deal of credibility in the way their festival bill mates Foals or MGMT might have. Explaining that it’s difficult to be regarded as cool whilst having a number one single and having your song hummed by Mums up and down the country. There is a certain level of fame and success that when you reach it credibility tends to exit- it’s a snobby and often unexplainable phenomenon but one that is most certainly true. Essentially you can be credible all your career and never play a venue bigger than the Barfly or forget about that and sell lots of albums, sell out tours and become a Radio 1 staple. Very few bands manage both. Katie replies, “When we started we played the small toilet venues and we’re exactly the same band now as we were then. Its funny how people see you differently, we play exactly the same set now as we did then. Essentially we’re the same band we just play to more people now and sell more records."

When the Ting Tings released their single ‘Fruit Machine’ in 2007 (Limited-edition, 500-only seven-inch single on Legendre Starkie Records) it was available solely from gigs in Berlin, Brooklyn and Salford. The track came with hand painted artwork and a sense of community and potential Ebay value was established. This, alongside the artist parties the band formed in at the now legendary Islington Mill paint The Ting Tings of a somewhat different band to the commercial titans they are just twelve months later. Can a band who have come from a DIY background maintain their individuality amidst a sea of TV programmes and Apple adverts? “Well you can’t hand craft artwork for a hundred thousand album covers, it would be physically impossible. We’re more of an indie band than most indie bands actually. Those bands tend to work with a producer and get everything done for them. We do everything ourselves, from writing the songs to producing them and mixing them. Everything you see to do with our band we’ve had a say in it, we’re well aware that we’re signed to a big label and there is a huge machine pushing it out there but things are being done exactly the same was as if we were releasing it ourselves.”

Having a massive debut album is a blessing and a curse, the music scene is littered with casualties of the sophomore failure. Have the Ting Tings started thinking or working on album number two? “No not really. The thing is, we wrote the first album in about six months when we were nowhere near as busy as we are now. It’s so hard trying to live on the road and write songs as well. So what we’re planning to do is finish up playing here and in America then get into the studio and work for five or six months, see what we end up with and hopefully it won’t be a pile of crap.” Do you feel under pressure to produce a batch of twelve ‘That’s Not My Name’ in a bid to recreate the success of ‘We Started Nothing’? “No, not at all. Because we’ve had problems with record labels before (White and Jules Martino were dropped from Mercury Records when they went under the name Dear Eskimo despite having recorded an album) we are very insistent and precise with what we want. It’s actually written in our contract that the label can’t demand anything from the second album. I don’t think they would anyway though to be honest. Columbia (Ting Tings label) have some really good bands like Kings Of Leon, MGMT and Gossip and they know that each band are different and are going to grow in different ways. Are there any producers you would like to work with or artists to collaborate with? “We’re going to produce it ourselves again I think, we work better that way. As far as collaborations go I think we’d both love to work with David Byrne- we’ll have to hope he’s available.”

As the interview draws to a close I still remains puzzled as to The Tings Tings position in the UK music landscape. Before the interview I had believed them to be guilty of ditching their independent roots and chasing a quick dollar. The evidence stacks up against them, a television advert (Like label mates Gossip) propelled them into the publics conscious and also the fact that when their old label tried selling their remaining copies of an old 7” they issued a cease and desist order, depriving a struggling label of a much needed cash injection. On the other hand are we to blame them for changing tact and embracing their audience? In a time where there are just two successful out and out pop bands (Sugababes, Girls Aloud) and the whole ‘indie chic’ phenomenon becomes increasingly popular The Ting Tings seem to be the modern day equivalent of the manufactured pop groups of the 90’s. They are in no way created and moulded, not at all- they do however fit a very precise and current demographic. A large number of the people who bought ‘We Started Nothing’ also might own a Britney Spears album or the latest X Factor winners Christmas single. By channelling the purest parts of the Talking Heads and Blondie aesthetics and launching it onto a market place gagging for a mainstream pop act The Ting Tings have struck gold. Where the band go from here is a mystery, the temptation to strike while the iron is hot will be hard to resist (You suspect however, a similar album to their debut would be ill received.) Whatever happens The Ting Tings remain one of the most confusing and challenging pop acts around.



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